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Meet the earliest baby girl ever discovered

s also CT scanned at the Diagnostic Center in Nairobi, Kenya. This technique enabled researchers to examine the developing permanent teeth allowing determination the sex, and age at death of the new fossil.

Among the major scientific contributions of this find are, first, the Dikika girl documents for the first time the complete skull morphology of juvenile Australopithecus afarensis. Based on the new find it is now possible to study how the skull of Australopithecus afarensis changed during growth when individuals passed from the childhood to adulthood. Second, the brain size of the Dikika girl, who was 3 when she died, is estimated at 330 cubic centimeters which is not very different from that of a 3 year-old chimpanzee. However, when compared to the adult values of its species, the Dikika baby had formed only between 63 and 88 % of the adult brain size, which is lower than that of chimpanzee where by the age of 3 over 90 % of the brain is formed. This relatively slow brain growth observed in Australopithecus afarensis is slightly closer to that of humans, pointing to possible behavioral shift in this species that lived 3.5 million years ago. Third, the postcranium (the skeleton other than the head) is represented by many bones that carry vital information regarding the locomotion (movement) and height of Australopithecus afarensis. The femur (thigh bone), the tibia (shinbone) and the foot of the girl preserve evidence that this ancient species walked upright effectively even at the age of three. However the two shoulder blades are similar to those of gorillas. The fingers are also long and curved as seen in other A. afarensis specimens. This raises old but unanswered questions. While an effective biped when on the ground, A. afarensis probably preserved its capacities for tree climbing which could have been adaptive for sleeping at night and avoiding predators, particularly for the little ones. Fourth, among the rare and exciting discoveries is the hyoi
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Contact: Sandra Jacob
jacob@eva.mpg.de
49-341-355-0122
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
21-Sep-2006


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